Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Let's Buy SOMETHING


(This post was written for the now defunct Motherhood Uncovered site. Due to the incredibly sharp pain I am currently having in my side (which I am sure means I need an ambulance and heavy doses of morphine), I am posting it at the risk of pissing off my better half. But he's such a good sport, I figure he will know that I am totally joking. Except about my being a major spender, because that's no joking matter. I hate it when he's right.)

Justin and I have completely different ideas when it comes to how to spend (or not spend) money. And it drives me absolutely crazy.

Justin is a saver. He will go for years in between underwear purchases and then has to be talked into them over a period of several weeks, while his old ones are cobbled together by two threads and an elastic band.

I, on the other hand, am a spender. I never got into the habit of saving. In fact, money almost literally burns a hole in my pocket. You can imagine how overwhelmed with joy I was when I discovered I could get credit cards. It was the equivalent of getting a box of Godiva chocolates during a bad PMS week. It was a free pass to adulthood and the mall. I mean the mall I used to go to before you could order everything you ever wanted online. A whole new world opened up the day the internet opened up shop and gave me the option of entering my credit card number.

The problem is that we are living at two extremes. Because of my spending, Justin feels like he simply can't spend money. Ever. It's in no way fair. And sometimes I wonder if I could stop hemorrhaging money from both ends of my wallet for any period of time whether he would be more amenable to spending when there is something big I want (like a new washing machine - yeah, right; appliances are so much fun). Or, alternatively, on some new underwear for him. But we will probably never know, because I am simply not a saver and I never will be. And "one click" does not go well with my impulsive fingers.

Our two extremes clash horribly at this time of year. Not only do we have Christmas coming; we also have all three kids' birthdays between the end of October and the end of the year. And in my own defense, much of the shopping I do the rest of the year is for the kids. I take care of all clothing needs and back to school shopping. I buy the occasional video game, milkshake, tank of gas, or all of the above. I pay the doctors, the dentists, the orthodontist. I buy the cell phones and the iTunes. I make sure moms' birthdays get remembered with flower deliveries. This year, for my parents' anniversary, my brother was supposed to pay for a portion of the Edible Arrangement I got my parents, except I haven't seen a check yet. I'm sure he forgot. Mostly because I decided not to remind him.

So, not every time I whip out the charge card is for my own benefit. Not even most of the time. But I do admit to way more than my share of Kindle downloads and "taking clothing on trips around the country," as Justin refers to my ordering and returning of clothing. I have refined the clothing trips so that I do not ever pay shipping charges (being a preferred customer of my favorite store with my very own store credit card) and a lot of the time, what I order gets returned because it doesn't fit. But it seems like the money comes in through my husband and go out directly through me. The harder he works, the harder I spend. I swear it's not intentional.

We have two major purchases we are currently contemplating - a new computer for me and a new car, also for me. And we are about to embark on the dance we do that leaves me beating my head against the wall, saying, "Why did I get married again? Why did I get married again?" I start fantasizing about how easy it would be if I made the money and I decided when I was going to make a purchase for me without having to get the agreement of my "better" half.

For the sake of brevity, let's just do the new car dance. It goes something like this:

Me: I think we should start the process of shopping for a new car. Ben's car is turning itself off at lights and that scares me. We talked about giving him the Explorer and buying me a new car and I think the time has come. We can use his Jeep as a trade in.

Justin: You're probably right. We'll take the Explorer in to get all of the fluids changed tomorrow.

Me: Wait. What?

Justin: Did you call the mechanic yet?

What this really means is that he is processing the fact that we should begin to think about maybe, possibly, looking into purchasing a new car sometime in the not too distant future. What I am thinking is that we should take advantage of the fact that it is the last day of the month and the dealerships are going to be desperate to move some vehicles. You see the problem?

We've talked at length about what kind of car I want for a couple of years now, since I haven't been able to choose my own car since before the second kid was born and I want something that I want this time. I don't want a "family" car or a minivan or an "SUV" that seats five, uncomfortably. I want a small, four door sedan that I can easily maneuver and don't have to worry about taking the passenger side mirror off when I am backing out of the garage at five miles per hour. True story. I've replaced that mirror three times - twice was going into or coming out of the garage because I have this problem with figuring out where I am in space (or in this case, the vehicle). The sense is called proprioception (a really fancy term for the fact that I can't figure out that I am about to knock over whatever is within ten feet of me) and I have absolutely none of it. So I want a small car. I want a dark blue car. I want an automatic. I want rear object detection and an iPod connection. And I want it now because we need to get rid of the Jeep that stalls at red lights, endangering my son's life.

I made the mistake of making a comment last night that Hyundai's donations to childhood cancer end at the end of September and the response was, "We are not buying a car tomorrow!" Okay, so I didn't really think we would go buy a car tomorrow. It was just a thought.

The way buying a car usually works for us (because I cannot stand the all day affair of going to the dealership and pretending like they are actually going to work with us on giving us a price we can afford while they hold our trade hostage so we can't leave) is that Justin will go and get a car that we think we might like and bring it home for me to test drive. If I like it, he will go back to the dealership and negotiate the deal so I don't get irritated and ask him for money for the candy machine every five minutes while we wait. Which means that if I want to get on with the process of buying a new car before the end of the year, I must first convince him to go over to the various dealerships and bring home one of each of the different makes we are considering for me to check out and then decide which one I want and then send him back for an all day Saturday negotiation ending in five years of car payments and expensive insurance. Oh and property taxes.

Needless to say, this is not something he enjoys. Nor is it something we do often. We used to do it often - as in every three years - but then we wised up to how much cheaper it is to keep a car for a few years after it was paid off, so it's been two years since we negotiated a car deal and that was all Justin and Ben for the Jeep that became Ben's 18th birthday present. The one we need to now trade in. My Explorer is 9 1/2 years old, but because I am afraid to go anywhere, it only has 73,000 miles on it, so it will continue the circle of life by being passed on to the oldest child. Since his "new/used" Jeep is biting the dust.

Justin does not like spending an entire day off dealing with car salesmen in shiny suits who are trying to reach their quotas and managers who are trying to squeeze as much profit out of us as possible by wearing him down. By leaving him sitting there while the salesman runs back and forth pretending like he doesn't know what the price actually is. Who could really blame him? And he won't give when he knows what the trade in is worth and what the new car is worth, so the process takes, like, three weeks, a hostage negotiator (for the trade), and a SWAT team with pizza delivery.

But we've made the decision. I don't want to look at a million different cars online and consider each of them extensively. Justin's way of getting to a large purchase is to check out every different possible purchase online (showing me each one as if it was one he is actually seriously considering). Then, once I am worn down finally to thinking we will never, ever start actually looking at real vehicles, we will begin round 2, which consists of going around to dealerships when they are closed (so as not to be bothered by the salesmen) and see which cars I actually like when I see them for real. After several weeks/months of this, he will finally be at the point where he might agree to go over to the dealership that sells the type of car I like to bring one home for me to test drive. If I can get him to this point, I know I've got a new car in the next couple of days (or after three weeks and my filing a missing persons report). But getting to that point is absolutely agonizing for me. For him, it's a carefully considered decision with lots of thought put into it. For me, it's something I just want to get done already. Banging My. Head. Against. The. Wall.

Scene change...

I stopped by Best Buy with Jamie last week to check out the iPad I have been dreaming about since whenever it first came out. Justin has been trying to convince me that what I really want is an Apple MacBook Air. And wouldn't you know it? After looking at the iPad and then looking at the Air (for about five minutes), I decided that Justin is right. I actually want the Air. I trust his judgment, but I also hate it when he's right, especially when I've been so convinced for so long that I want an iPad. So it grated me something fierce to come home and tell him that indeed, I think the Air is a better idea.

I know he was planning on getting me the iPad for Christmas. But the Air is about $400 more...so what I'm wondering is whether or not this is not just another car deal, with months of comparison shopping and more bruises to my forehead. I guess we'll know on Christmas morning. I am greatly anticipating the new Stephen King novel...which is probably what will be under the tree.

Update: I have taken the Jeep and Ben is using the Explorer. The Jeep is no longer turning itself off now that it is getting the high octane gasoline and it just passed inspection. And I really kind of like it, so we're keeping it for awhile. And bonus for Justin: the new Kindle Fire arrived in stores yesterday and THAT'S what I really want. So I told him to hold off on the computer and just get me a Kindle Fire. Saving him about $1,000 (for the moment). Maybe there is hope for me yet. Except I pre-ordered Stephen King's new book for the kindle. That damned one touch.

 

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